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, maker of Prada and Ray-Ban sunglasses, posted nearly a 30% decline in first-quarter earnings, hurt by reduced inventories and declining demand.

During the quarter, the company earned 80.4 million euro compared with 103.7 million euro last year.

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Sales declined 6% to 229.6 million euro from 275.3 million euro in the year-prior.

While the sunglass market was rough in the first quarter, Luxottica executives say they are already starting to see a turnaround. "After the first four months of 2009, we are already seeing a clear difference between the January to February and March to April periods," CEO Andrea Guerra said in a statement. "In fact, in March and April our results have stabilized in North America, while improving in nearly all other markets. April ended with sales results ahead of last year."

Shares of the company grew 3% to $20.56 in afternoon trading.

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